Four Love Lessons from Ricki Lake

Whether you’re single or partnered this Valentine’s Day, I want to share an inspiring love story to bring you a little more sparkle!

About a month ago I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when a post popped up from actress and former talk show show host Ricki Lake (she’s best known for playing the teen character “Tracy Turnbald” in John Water’s cult classic film Hairspray.)

In the post she was wearing a bright orange kaftan standing on a foot stool looking deeply into the eyes of a super tall, hunky man. Turns out the pic was taken at her Jan 2 backyard wedding to said hunk (a lawyer named Ross Burningham). As I scrolled through the slides of her wedding pictures, I became curious about their backstory.

It turns out Ricki and Ross’s love story is a truly modern romance with many great love lessons to take away. So to kick off our first Love Lessons post of 2022, here are four that I hope will inspire you to keep your heart (and eyes!) open as you call in your forever love this year.

Love Lesson #1: Understand the type of power dynamic that work best for you.

In a recent episode of the “How Do I Find Love (Again)” podcast, Ricki told the host, Claire Bidwell Smith, that Ross was the first relationship she’s been in where she feels like she is with her equal.

Although Ricki was very much in love with her first two husbands, something always seemed off. Being famous, she was the primary breadwinner in her first marriage; and because her second beloved husband suffered from mental illness, she took on the role of primary caretaker in her marriage to him. In both cases the relationships never felt balanced because of the mismatch in power dynamics.

That all changed with Ross. Being a successful partner in a law firm, he is not only Ricki’s financial equal, he is also a grounded and loving partner who provides her with a sense of safety and security. When he popped the question last February with a beautiful diamond ring, Ricki confessed that it was the first time that she did not have to purchase her own engagement ring. Although she didn’t mind purchasing the rings with her first two marriages, the experience of not having to do so with Ross, felt profoundly different for her.

married couple

There is no “one-size fits all” approach when it comes to energy exchanges (financial or otherwise) in relationships.

In Ricki’s case, the power dynamic that ultimately works best is when she is with someone she feels is her equal. This is not true for everyone. For some women, the power dynamic that feels yummiest is when her partner takes on the “alpha” role, or is the primary breadwinner for the family.

So when you’re still in the “getting to know you” phase of dating, pay close attention to the subtle power dynamics at play between you and the other person. Try to get a sense of what feels right, and then choose your partner accordingly.

Love Lesson #2: Have the self love piece in place before you meet him.

Ironically, the most inspiring part of Ricki’s love story is not the one she’s created with Ross, but the one she created with herself. You see, a year before she met him Ricki decided to take control of a private situation that she had been suffering from for years: hair loss.

For decades (nearly her entire time in the public eye) Ricki felt despondent (a few times even suicidal) about her hair loss, concealing it with wigs and extensions that made her feel even less like herself.

But in December of 2019, Ricki decided to take her control back when she removed her hairpieces and shaved her hair into a buzz cut. She uploaded photos of her sexy new ‘do on her social media pages and spoke bravely about what it took to get to the point where she could lift this burden off of her shoulders and become free of it.

Apparently this decision was the beginning of a self love and self acceptance journey that she firmly believes helped her call in her new husband Ross. By the time of their first date she had grown out her buzz cut into a pixie cut, but she declined to dye it brown and instead chose to rock her gorgeous natural grey hair. She owned her new look and took back her confidence.

The freedom Ricki felt by sharing her secret upped her self confidence and boosted her self love, which was no doubt very attractive to her future beau.

woman meditating

The point of Lesson #2 is not that anyone needs to reveal a private medical condition to the world or shave their head, rather, it’s that no matter what your personal struggles are, choosing to love yourself— as you are — is the ultimate act of self love. And embracing who you are is how you become The One for your perfect match.

Love Lesson #3: You gotta get out of the house.

Now that vaccines are widely available and the world is opening back up, it might be time to venture out into the big, bad world and do some old fashion socializing. Remember those days?

No one is a bigger proponent than I of using modern dating technology; but, we should never forget that real relationships are nurtured in real life. In Ricki’s case, she was introduced to Ross through an old-school fix up.

Very early in the pandemic Ricki ran into a good girlfriend while walking her dog in her neighborhood. Thrilled to see our another human being after months of quarantining, the women quickly caught up on their lives and Ricki shared that she had broken up (yet again) with a man she had been seeing.

woman walking dog

“Oh! I think I know someone you should meet,” her friend replied.

What Ricki said next is Love Lesson #4, but before we get to that, the main take away for this love lesson is “how” the connection happened — out in the good ole’ fashioned sunshine while getting a little exercise and lots of Vitamin D.

I know we’ve all gotten a little too comfy over the past few years with our Zoom meetings and binging on Netflix shows, but the simple truth is this: You gotta get out of the house 🙂

Love Lesson #4: Know what you’re looking for and don’t feel shy to say it.

This love lesson came from a little anecdote Ricki recounted during her podcast interview. At the time her girlfriend was fixin’ to fix her up with Ross, she asked Ricki what she was “looking for” in a guy. Ricki didn’t hesitate to reply:

I want someone who has his shit together.
I want someone who doesn’t want a kid.
And I want someone who wants to have fun.

Perhaps this was said a bit bluntly, but being clear about what she was looking for ended up serving Ricki very well.

assertive woman

Ross has four grown children (and isn’t looking to have more), and he was a newly empty nester when they met. Talk about good timing! Apparently empty nest = lots of sexy time for these two lovebirds. He proposed while they were naked at home in their jacuzzi. ( Oh my! What will the kids think?)

Even though you don’t need to figure out the “exact” picture of what life with your beloved will look like, do think about the bigger lifestyle choices you want, and don’t be coy about sharing that info with anyone who wants to fix you up on a date.


Okay, I have to admit I hesitated to reveal this bonus lesson, but since we’re discussing a modern love story, I’m gonna include it. The love lesson is this: sometimes your booty call can end up being your husband. As crazy as it sounds, that’s what happened with Ricki and Ross.

Ricki Lake is known for being very personable and open about her life and she admitted on the podcast that for the first 3 months they were dating, Ross was basically her “booty call.” It wasn’t until some months later when on Halloween a lightbulb went off in her head and she realized she was actually falling for Ross…

Happily, he pretty quickly realized that Ricki was his forever person too, and their fun situationship blossomed into a full-on romance.

woman smiling in bed

But here’s the caveat with this bonus love lesson: don’t begin a FWB arrangement hoping it will turn into a full fledged romance. There is a big possibility that only one of you will develop “feelings” which would be a painful situation for both of you.

So yes, a booty call can turn into true love, but there is no guarantee it will. So treat casual dating as a fun thing you do for you, and then anything extra that comes from it is… well, a bonus.


I hope you found this Love Lessons article fun and motivating. If you feel comfortable doing so, make plans to get out of the house and meet some new people this weekend. Connect with a good friend and be sure to ask for a fix up.

Because anything is possible when you take the bull by the horns.

P.S. If your friend asks you what you’re “looking for” in a man, make sure “I want someone who has his shit together” is on your list.

P.P.S. There’s a new dating app focused on #IRL meetups. It’s called “Thursday” and it only works on Thursdays. Instead of encouraging users to endlessly swipe, the app limits interactions to one day a week, so if you match with someone you like, you only have that day to exchange numbers or to set up real life meeting before they become a “missed connection.” Brilliant eh?

See if Thursday has rolled out to your city by clicking HERE (I am not an affiliate of this app.)

Is private coaching your style? Click here to schedule a FREE 30-minute HELLO SESSION to find out how we can work together.

Main Photo credit: Tinseltown | Shutterstock | Ricki Lake at the World Premiere of “Walk Hard” held at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, USA on December 12, 2007.